Meerkat: “Wish we’d had this earlier for the 150ths” or “too much noise”?

You may have seen the buzz of late concerning a new app called Meerkat.  The rather lightweight app, running on an iOS device (I don’t think there is a version out for Andriod or other platforms yet), which allows the user to stream video straight through Twitter.  Right off the bat, I think you can see there would be some “good” and “bad” aspects of that capability.  If none come to mind, you might browse through the numerous live streams that were posted on Twitter. Some OK stuff there.  Some “who cares” stuff. In general, much like anything on the internet, the first go around the noise to signal ratio is skewed to the former.

I’ve tested the app earlier this week for my non-Civil War private account.  Then earlier today I posted a short video stream of the latest Civil War Trails marker posted in Loudoun County.

One limitation is quickly in play… unless you clicked on the link when I was “Live Now” then you didn’t see it… thankfully as the video was poorly framed.  Meerkat has already posted some “rules” which govern actions on the app, but not so much behavior.  Included in those is the limitation – no reruns.  So you can’t go back and see what I shared earlier.   Though I can re-post or schedule that at a later point for you to view… provided you have “subscribed” and accept the notification to view.  As you see, that can be troublesome.  Who is sitting on their smart device waiting for a video feed to open?

However, I can see some application of this app in my near future.  So much of the 150th events have been “in the moment” and “you had to be there” experiences.  I’ve  tried to capture those from the “field” on Twitter where possible.  But there’s only so much you can do with text and a picture.  Maybe, by working a bit more on the camera techniques, I might stream some of the last few Sesquicentennial events.

We’ll see how that works… or doesn’t.  Might add a new facet to live blogging these sort of events.  Then again, might not be worth the hassle.


March 25, 1865: General Robert Anderson heading back to Fort Sumter to raise the flag

On March 25, 1865, President Abraham Lincoln was visiting the lines at Petersburg and the Confederates were making quite a show around Fort Stedman.  But, in spite of the push made by the Army of Northern Virginia, dispatches on the Federal side seemed routine.  Among the routine traffic passed from Washington to City Point that day was this message from Secretary of War Edwin Stanton:

I have invited Henry Ward Beecher to deliver an address on raising the flag upon Fort Sumter, and will give direction to General Gillmore to make all suitable military arrangements for the occasion and fire a salute of 500 guns. The flag will be raised by General Anderson. Please let me know if these arrangements have your approval.  What does General Grant say about Yeatman?  I congratulate you and General Grant on the operations of t0-day.

As I’ve pulled this note out of context, let me walk it backwards into context.  The last line references the successful defense against the Confederate attack launched earlier in the day.  But standing in stark contrast to the desperate fighting on the lines, Stanton was planning a grand ceremony for Fort Sumter.

James Yeatman was a St. Louis businessman, president of the Western Sanitary Commission, and very much active politically.  Yeatman was under consideration to head the commission organizing the ceremony.  But more back-and-forth over that selection would follow.

Though weeks away, Stanton already selected particular details to serve a symbolic purpose – Beecher to speak, Major-General Robert Anderson to raise the US flag, and a 500 gun salute.  Not specifically mentioned in the message to Lincoln, but the plan called for the ceremony to occur on April 14, 1865 – on the anniversary of the fort’s surrender in 1861.  Further details went into General Orders No. 50, issued on March 27 from the War Department:

First. That at the hour of noon on the 14th day of April, 1865, Brevet Major-General Anderson will raise and plant upon the ruins of Fort Sumter, in Charleston Harbor, the same U.S. flag which floated over the battlements of that fort during the rebel assault, and which was lowered and saluted by him and the small force of his command when the works were evacuated on the 14th day of April, 1861.

Second. That the flag, when raised, be saluted by 100 guns from Fort Sumter, and by a national salute from every fort and rebel battery that fired on Fort Sumter.

Third. That suitable ceremonies be held upon the occasion, under the direction of Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman, whose military operations compelled the rebels to evacuate Charleston, or, in his absence, under the charge of Maj. Gen. Q.A. Gillmore, commanding the department.  Among the ceremonies will be the delivery of a public address by the Rev. Henry Ward Beecher.

Forth. That the naval forces at Charleston, and their commander on that station, be invited to participate in the ceremonies of the occasion.

Recall that before evacuating the fort in 1861, Anderson received permission to fire a 100 gun salute from the fort’s batteries.  That 1861 salute ended with fifty shots when an accidental explosion mortally wounded two privates.  Embrace the intended symbolism at many different levels in regard to that salute.

The ceremony at Fort Sumter was intended to cement in the public mind the victory – complete or pending – over the Confederacy.  Reporters, sketch artists, and photographers were invited to cover the event.  April 14 was the date that, regardless of what was going on at the front lines, the people of America would be told the Federal Union has won this Civil War… even as the messy details were being worked out.  To tread upon a modern analogy at my own peril, this was intended to be a “Mission Accomplished” banner:

However, fate often plays tricks with the plans laid by man.  Events on April 15 would leave this ceremony somewhat a footnote to history.

Closing note here.  Fort Sumter National Monument has a number of events scheduled through April to observe the end of the war in Charleston.  If you are, like me, trying to catch every last minute of the sesquicentennial’s last hours, these are worth adding to the calendar.

(Citations from OR, Series I, Volume 47, Part III, Serial 100, pages 18 and 34.)

Sherman’s March, March 24, 1865: The armies close on Goldsboro, commanders reflect on the achievement

I’m going to offer up a map showing the movements for March 24, 1865, but only to support the short summary offered:


For the 24th, the Left Wing went into position on the west and north of Goldsboro.  The Right Wing, moving on two roads and crossing on two pontoon bridges, reached camps to the east and south of the town.  The Twenty-Third Corps started a march back to Kinston, where it would camp for a few weeks.  Major-General Alfred Terry’s command maintained a front west of Goldsboro while the Left Wing went into position.  During the day, Brigadier-General Charles Paine’s Third Division of that corps fought with Confederate cavalry.  But that evening, Terry’s command commenced recrossing the Neuse River and began their march to Faison’s Depot.  Major-General H. Judson Kilpatrick reported all his cavalry closed on Mount Olive on the 24th.  The brigade of Brigadier-General Smith Atkins moved as far south as Clinton.  Kilpatrick found the forage in that area very plentiful.

Thus the elements of Major-General William T. Sherman’s command went into camp for a deserved rest and refit.  As the formations transitioned to these camps, the commanders began to catch up on their paperwork.  Within days, reports were filed recounting the movements which started, for some, in January.  With those came a wealth of statistics.  The observations and statistics offered in that period of late March are important to consider, as they offer a measure of the impact of the campaign… and appear well before post-war claims which attempted to exaggeration on some points.

Major-General Oliver O. Howard indicated that the Right Wing marched 463 miles from February 1 to March 24.  The average rate of march per day was thus 8.19 miles.  Though Howard also pointed out that counting only “marching days” the average was 13.23 miles!  On the Left Wing, Major-General Alpheus S. Williams indicated his Twentieth Corps marched 465 miles, while his trains covered 456.10 miles.  Thus both wings covered the same distances.  Williams felt at least 3/5ths of the route of march was corduroyed. On the other hand, Howard indicates the Right Wing only corduroyed 106 miles.

Brigadier-General Orlando Poe, Sherman’s breveted Chief Engineer, recorded the Right Wing laid 3,720 feet of pontoon bridges, and the Left Wing laid over 4,000 feet (engineers on the Left Wing indicate that figure was actually 5,490 feet).  Howard tallied 31 bridges laid to support the Right Wing’s movements.  All impressive numbers considering the rate of march and the weather encountered.

And what damage was inflicted on the Confederates? According to Howard, the Right Wing captured nearly 2.5 million pounds of foodstuffs.  Add to that 4.8 million pounds of corn forage and 2.7 million pounds of fodder.  The Wing destroyed 15,000 bales of cotton and 42 miles of railroad (a figure far less than that inflicted on Georgia).  Howard’s command captured 3,049 horses and 3,766 mules. In terms of military stores, the Right Wing captured and/or destroyed 70,000 pounds of powder, 67 pieces of artillery, over 18,000 artillery projectiles, over 13,000 rifles and muskets, and over 1.2 million small arms cartridges.  Such figures do not account for the equally active Left Wing.

Any of these measures should be considered against several situational factors that existed in March 1865.  Foremost, by the winter of 1865, the Carolinas were the supply base for the forces engaged in Virginia.  Every pound and every horse that Howard included within his total was a pound or an animal not available to General Robert E. Lee.  The loss of thousands of muskets, tens of artillery pieces, and tons of powder were military supplies the Confederacy could not recoup.  In terms of logistics, the march through the Carolinas caused the Appomattox Campaign.

Another facet to consider with these figures is just how much remained in the Carolinas through the winter of 1865 – enough for Sherman to feed 50,000 men for upwards of six weeks.  That stands in sharp contrast to the lack of supplies reaching Richmond-Petersburg, the shortage of animals for Confederate troops moving to oppose Sherman, or the limited rations given Federal prisoners.  This lends the conclusion that the logistical problem in the Confederacy was not lack of foodstuffs, but rather the lack of transportation resources and the inability of the Confederate commissary to gather those supplies.   Sherman’s men had neither of those problems as they proceeded through the Carolinas.

Another measure compiled at the time was the casualty figures.  Howard reported the loss of 963 killed, wounded, or missing throughout the march.  Major-General Henry Slocum, who’s Left Wing carried most of the burden for the two major engagements of the campaign, reported 242 killed, 1,308 wounded, and 802 missing (for a total of 2,352).  Kilpatrick reported an aggregate of 604 casualties from the cavalry division during the march.

Confederate figures are hard to establish, given the split nature of the commands.  Likely in terms of killed and wounded, the total figures were similar to that of the Federals.  However the Federals reported capturing far more prisoners during the campaign.

In summation of the march, Major-General John Geary offered this paragraph in his March 26 report:

The Carolina campaign, although in its general military features of the same nature as that from Atlanta to Savannah, was one of much greater labor, and which tested most thoroughly the power of endurance and elasticity of spirit among American soldiers. The distance marched was much farther, through regions presenting greater natural obstacles, and where a vindictive enemy might naturally be expected in force sufficient to harass our troops and interfere frequently with our trains. The season was one of comparative inclemency, during which the roads were in the worst condition, yet my command marched from Savannah to Goldsborough without serious opposition, and without a single attack upon the trains under my charge. The spirit of my troops throughout was confident and buoyant, expressive of that implicit trust in their commander-in-chief, and belief in themselves, which are always presages of military success. It was their common experience to march at dawn or earlier, corduroy miles of road, exposed to drenching rains, or standing waist-deep often in swamps lifting wagons out of mire and quicksand where mules could not obtain a foothold, and, when the day’s work was through, encamp late at night, only to repeat the process with the next day. Then again there were many days of pleasant march and attractive bivouac. Through this all they evinced a determination and cheerfulness which has added greatly to my former high appreciation of the same qualities shown by them on so many battle-fields of the past four years.

Geary, like many of the men who made the march, were justly proud of their accomplishments.

(Citation from OR, Series I, Volume 47, Part I, Serial 98, page 695.)